This week brings beautiful traditional feasts in honour of Our Lady: the Nativity of Mary (September 8), her Holy Name (12th) and her Seven Sorrows (15th). They are fittingly gathered closely about the feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross. Our Blessed Mother, the “daughter of her Son”, as Dante describes her, with her gaze redirects our own gaze always to her Son and Saviour. St John Paul II wrote in his 2002 apostolic letter Rosarium Viriginis Mariae: “How could one possibly gaze upon the glory of the Risen Christ, or of Mary Queen of Heaven, without yearning to make this world more beautiful, more just, more closely conformed to God’s plan?”
Speaking of beauty, justice and plans, the feast of the Exaltation of the Cross, on September 14, is the 10th anniversary of the implementation of Benedict XVI’s monumentally important motu proprio, Summorum Pontificum. I tend to call it his “Emancipation Proclamation”, since it justly, finally, freed all priests of the Latin Church also to use the older, traditional form of Holy Mass in the Roman Rite. A bold move, long overdue. The norms Benedict laid down were, I believe, one dimension of what I also identify as his “Marshall Plan” to revitalise the Church and, hence, the world against the encroaching dictatorship of relativism. Benedict understood that, as a Church, we needed to reclaim much of what had been lost and obscured to the detriment of our Catholic identity. He wrote:
In the history of the liturgy there is growth and progress, but no rupture. What earlier generations held as sacred, remains sacred and great for us too, and it cannot be all of a sudden entirely forbidden or even considered harmful. It behoves all of us to preserve the riches which have developed in the Church’s faith and prayer, and to give them their proper place.
Benedict hoped that through side-by-side contact, over time, there would result an organic process of inexorable “mutual enrichment”, which would heal past wounds in our sacred worship and identity and guide future possibilities in a healthy way. At the end of his instructive accompanying letter to bishops, Benedict said: “I entrust these norms to the powerful intercession of Mary, Mother of the Church.” The norms of Summorum Pontificum are a true gift to the Church and the world, the fruits of which, as I am confident time will prove, will be irreversible.
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